Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Loose Ends (and a couple of Plot Spoilers)

[images by stacy] flickr creative commons

Last week, a reviewer who’d just finished reading House of Mercy contacted me and asked if there’s a sequel in the works. “I just have so many unanswered questions,” the reviewer said.

“Well, I’m not one for tidy endings,” I replied.

“I’m not either, but I seriously thought the book was missing pages.”

I have a feeling I’m going to get this reaction from a lot of HOM readers. If you’re one of them, maybe I can answer (in very general terms) some of the unanswered questions here. If you’re not, wow—you’re more easily satisfied than I am! And if you haven’t read the book yet, this is your plot spoiler warning.

Q: Will there be a sequel?

A: I hope so. HOM was designed to be the first of two books, but it will not be the next book I write. The publisher and I have mapped out a plan for several more stand-alone titles before I return to Beth and Jacob’s story. It may be that the sequel takes the form of downloadable novella rather than traditional bound book. I just haven’t decided yet. (Which would you prefer?)

Q: Is the Blazing B lost or saved?

A: In the draft of HOM that I turned in to the publisher, the ranch was saved. Instead of a wolf den on the property, Wally and Beth finally located Wally’s lost lock box and the truth about Wally’s pre-brain-damaged past: he was wealthy beyond measure and had squirreled away his wealth from greedy relatives. Wally could think of no one more deserving of the keys to his international safe deposit box than Abel Borzoi’s daughter. Levi was foiled, all was well.

The longer I sat with this ending, the more it soured in my stomach. Because if HOM is a story about anything, it’s about whether a person can believe God is good in all circumstances, especially when we don't get what we want or think we need from him. So by ending with the miraculous answer to prayer, I felt I was undermining my own question. Faith comes easily when our suffering ends. But what if it doesn’t end on this side of heaven? I just couldn’t let Beth off the hook. Her life has been forever changed by the events of HOM. She needs to reprocess her own beliefs about God in light of those unexpected and amazing miracles, which are greater than the salvation of the ranch.

Q: How did Jacob get Miracle Mattie’s saddle? And why was he happy Beth stole it?

A: House of Mercy is Beth’s story; any sequel will be Jacob’s. I’m busting to tell you more about Jacob’s past, what happened to his mother, his family connections to the Wulffs, the significance of that saddle in his own history, how his love for Beth blossomed, and why he is such a patient man. But I’ll have to beg your patience, just as Jacob asked for Beth’s. HOM is already a long novel, and more slowly paced than my others. To tell Jacob’s story too would have been too much for this first installment.

Q: Does Beth ever figure out her healing gift? It seems she's just growing into it.

A: Unpacking our personal giftedness is a lifelong process, and in Beth's case, she's only had a few weeks to start sorting through all the layers of hers. I can't promise she'll ever "figure it out" any more than the rest of us do, but I too am curious about where this unusual path might take her.

What other questions do you want a HOM sequel to answer? 

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